THE adder is the UK's only native venomous snake – and the smallest.
But can the snake's bite kill you? Here's everything you need to know.
What are adders and what do they look like?
The adder, also known as the common European viper, is the only venomous snake native to the UK – but they are not aggressive creatures.
The snakes will only use their venom as a last means of defence and this is usually if they are caught or trodden on – around 100 people are bitten every year.
They are commonly found in areas of rough, open countryside near woodland and are mostly seen in early spring when they emerge from hibernation.
Most adders have a distinct dark zigzag that runs down the length of their bodies, as well as an inverted “V” shape on their neck.
Male adders are usually white or pale grey with a black zigzag, while the females are a pale brown colour, with a darker brown zigzag.
In some cases, adders can be entirely black – which can lead them to being mistaken for others. Adults adults tend to grow to a total length of 25 to 35 inches (including the tail).
Adder snake's have an average life span of up to 15 years.
SYMPTOMS OF VENOMOUS SNAKE BITE
- Severe pain at the location of the bite
- Swelling, redness and bruising at the location of the bite, spreading up the bitten limb
- Feeling sick (nausea) followed by vomiting
- Itchy lumps on the skin (hives or nettle rash)
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, gums and throat
- Breathing difficulties with wheezing, similar to asthma
- Mental confusion, dizziness or fainting
- An irregular heartbeat
Can adders kill you?
While the adder’s bite can be very painful and the venom does have the potential to be fatal – no one has died from an adder bite in Britain for over 20 years.
If properly treated, the worst effects of the snake’s bite are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising around the bite.
In a small number of people, a snake bite can trigger a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
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SEVERE CASES OF VENOMOUS SNAKE BITE SYMPTOMS
- Extensive swelling, blistering and eventually tissue death (gangrene) in the area of the bite
- Paralysis – starting with drooping of the upper eyelids and progressing down the body to produce an inability to swallow, breathe or move
- Shock and loss of consciousness
- Kidney failure with little or no urine being passed
- Massive blood loss – as a result of bleeding from the mouth, nose and wounds, vomiting blood, and passing blood in urine or stools
Have there been any adder attacks in the UK?
In April, 2022, an eight-year-old-boy was bitten by an adder snake – after visiting a Norfolk beach on a day trip.
Eight-year-old Jake Closier from London was attacked by one of England's only venomous native snake in the sand dunes – which caused his hand to swell up five times the normal size.
A similar incident happened in Stourbridge in April, 2022 – when an eight-year-old school girl spotted an adder at the Kniver Edge.
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Once spotting the small snake, the girl reached her hand out in curiosity – and the venomous snake struck and bit her hand, causing it to swell.
In July 2020, a three-year-old boy was rushed to hospital and unable to walk after he was bitten by an adder in Surrey.
Lewis Wise, three, was hunting for his toys when the poisonous snake attacked him in Lightwater Country Park.
He was given morphine at the hospital but his left leg was so swollen that he was unable to walk.
- Only venomous snake in UK
- Can grow up to 3ft and live for 15 years
- Usually eat rodents, lizards and frogs
- Bites can cause swelling, bruising and sickness in humans
- Last death was a five-year-old Scottish boy in 1975
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